Spatial network morphology and social integration of the elderly : the socio-spatial 'embeddedness' of community-based elderly care facilities

Li, Xiaoming and Sailer, Kerstin; (2022) Spatial network morphology and social integration of the elderly : the socio-spatial 'embeddedness' of community-based elderly care facilities. In: Annual Conference Proceedings of the XXVIII International Seminar on Urban Form. University of Strathclyde Publishing, Glasgow, pp. 936-945. ISBN 9781914241161

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Moving from the outskirts of cities into urban neighbourhoods, so called community-based elderly care facilities are regarded as a shift from a traditional medical model of care to a social model of care, with an aim of fostering social interactions between facility inhabitants and local residents. This strategy of achieving social integration through spatial integration involves spaces at multiple scales, including not only the interior environment of facilities, but also the exterior urban fabric surrounding facilities. However, most existing research focuses on the building interior of facilities. Local authorities tacitly assume that allocating facilities within an urban community means the realisation of spatial integration, hardly addressing the spatial complexity of urban communities from a morphological perspective, which results in contradictory findings with respect to the social outcomes of implementing such policies. Urban morphology can be a structural factor affording or eliminating opportunities of social interaction among inhabitants, which is particularly applicable to the ageing population, for whom social connections are largely realised via physical environments. Taking over 140 care facilities in the Chinese city of Nanjing as cases, this study develops a spatial network model to quantitatively identify the morphological patterns of urban communities in which facilities are located, thus considering the urban environment as an opportunity structure. It also disentangles to what extent facilities are connected or isolated from surrounding urban fabrics at various scales. Results show that being located within communities does not necessarily imply spatial embeddedness. Spatial network morphology may constrain social connection opportunities of facility inhabitants at global or local scales. Findings indicate that urban communities should not be regarded as spatially homogeneous entities when allocating care facilities. Differentiated morphological factors should be considered to optimise opportunities for social connection via spatial embeddedness.

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